You Are Being Ripped Off Britain!
As we approach the Brexit trapdoor, the country’s manufacturers and retailers have been getting their adjustments in early to take account of the probable loss of business, to compensate for the increase in the prices of ingredients or raw materials, and let’s face it, to take advantage of the unique profit opportunity that economic uncertainty can bring. Reasons or excuses. Well you decide!
Just to show how bad things have become, the results of a BBC survey on the weight and price of popular chocolate bars (data supplied by http://www.brandview.com) give some indication of the depth of the problem: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42864685 It also points to a much wider malaise, and we British are stiffening our upper lips to their extreme in tolerating this shit.
I have been trying to lose weight for a number of years. The metabolism has slowed and no matter how little I eat or how much exercise I do, I seem to have stuck around 14 stone, when ideally I should be a stone lighter. So this former chocaholic has been careful not to binge on the stuff for some time, instead leaning towards supposedly healthier snacks, and only very occasionally drinks alcohol. Unfortunately, the healthier snacks are also packed with sugar, but on the upside I like them less therefore eat fewer of them. I buy Nature Valley granola bars from time to time, and guess what? While the pack remains the same size its contents seem to have reduced in size by around 15% in the last year. They clearly bought a job lot of packaging, not anticipating the extraordinary impact that economic uncertainty can bring.
But this isn’t just about food. It is hitting us from multiple directions. Just over a week after that fateful vote I was in a local music shop to buy some new strings for a number of instruments, and in the conversation I had there I was told that they were thankful to have put orders in early to their suppliers because the cost price of all instruments had since increased between 10% and 40%. This is really serious folks, and we haven’t even left yet.
As someone whose profession has been international trade for more than 30 years, I am both a passionate European and a passionate internationalist. I am also apparently a scaremonger to those who want to close their eyes and ears to the calamity that is about to befall us. However, much that I would love to blame everything on Brexit, the problem we are faced with goes way beyond that, beyond general shrinkage, and beyond corporate opportunism. Successive governments have failed to stay up to speed with the pace of developments in all industry sectors for decades. The chickens are now coming home to roost as government has enforced swingeing cuts to the budgets of local councils.
I was walking Ozzy in the park this morning and as I approached the children’s playground in the half light of dawn I noticed shards of glass on the ground, so steered him away. This year, in the continuing effort to maximise profitability for Trafford Council’s private partnership with Amey plc (who could soon be emulating Carillion and Capita if the current government was brave, strong and stable enough to send in teams of independent auditors), moved the dedicated local park keeper on to other duties. They only have 9.5 people allocated to environmental services for this “Tory Flagship” borough.
We are tolerating the reduction in weight and (generally) simultaneous increase in price of our chocolate bars, and this extends to most other foodstuffs. We are tolerating price hikes for specialist products like musical instruments, as well as both staple and luxury foods, children’s clothing and shoes… the list goes on. We are tolerating the cuts in our parks and gardens, where trained employees are being replaced by volunteers with mixed experience and ability. I have barely scratched the surface because these cuts extend to every one of our local services.
If this is representative of a strong and stable economy, then it’s probably way past the time when we took off our blinkers, and actually started to fight back properly. No I absolutely do not advocate violence. I actually believe that when you resort to violence you lose the argument. The knob head who scuffled pathetically yesterday with Jacob Rees-Mogg gave both him and the right wing media all the ammunition they needed to discredit any cause the assailant may have had. You have to be so much smarter than that to stop the juggernaut.
But you can vote with your feet, you can adjust your buying habits, you can write to your MPs and harangue your local councillors, and of course you can campaign for a political party of your choice and you can exercise your vote at both local and national elections. We probably can’t prevent the damage that Brexit will bring for future generations, but each and every one of us can do our bit to make this country, and the world, a better place.